What ‘The Northman’ Taught Me About Self-Help
I recently finished watching The Northman on Peacock. It got me thinking: what if I trained like a warrior? Could I mold my life around a warrior culture and become a better version of myself? A more masculine version? A tougher, devil-may-care version? What would that look like? How can one even try to do that in today’s society?
As the hours passed I began to lose the initial excitement I felt while I was watching the movie. I went from wanting to be a warrior to going back to my regular old self. Maybe it’s silly to want to be a warrior in today’s society, it’s only a fantasy now, played out in Hollywood by actors who can appear as anything.
But I’m going to try to listicle what I think a warrior self-help routine would look like anyway, based off of what I learned from The Northman.
- Vengeance is a pretty good focuser. Find out who your enemy is, or discover an enemy and figure out how you will wreak your revenge on them. What tasks do you need to train to finish them?
- Train your body for a fight. Your workouts should be using your body to train to kill and avoid death. Your vengeance should be on your mind as you dial in on your workout.
- Wardrums are highly motivating. You should be focusing yourself through the loud sounds of beating drums. Roar and growl until you become very angry and enter into berserker mode for your workout where you focus on the death of your foe.
- Speak with a gravelly, or guttural tone. You won’t feel like much of a warrior if you sound like a weakling. Deepen your voice and add a pitch to it that sounds like the men in The Northman.
- Don’t be goofy. Never did The Northman show a sense of humor, I can’t remember him smiling, I can’t remember him doing anything other than being extremely stoic and focused. As you continue to remain in this state of mind you develop a warrior’s focus.
- Forget about lunch. Did the Northman even eat anything beyond the most basic gruel? He didn’t need to hydrate or feed, he simply existed as a complete being intent on revenge, and he was still huge for it! The main takeaway here is that your mission is more important than your meal.
- Sleep is for sissies. The Northman was constantly up all night getting into shenanigans. His thirst for revenge kept him energized.
- Don’t walk, stalk. Stalk around like you are stalking prey. Hunch your shoulders and flex your traps and walk with an intent to kill.
- Identify with a fearsome animal and act it out. Roar and growl like a wolf, or a bear, or a lion, or a crocodile, or an eagle, or whatever it is you want to identify that’s superhuman fearsome. Become that beast to feel more powerful than you ever have before.
- Ignore pain. You aren’t a warrior if you can’t ignore pain. Could you brand yourself with a hot iron as a slave in order to exact your revenge?
- Don’t be squeamish. A warrior isn’t afraid of things that are disgusting. Blood. Mud. Smells. Dead bodies. He simply isn’t revolted. He has the stomach for it. Fear makes one squeamish, what can we do to get rid of it? An overwhelming desire for vengeance.
- Don’t show fear. A warrior simply has no fear. They actually want to be killed in battle because that is their only way to get to heaven. This means they absolutely must learn to fight and get in fights if they are ever going to get a chance to die in battle. If you are in your best shape, and genuinely desire to die a certain way, then you have no fear and instead become feared. While we cannot do this in the modern world, it is important to have some sort of powerful desire and belief that propels you to do things you would normally be afraid of. Maybe instead of wanting to die in battle, you want to die with the most toys, or die with honor, or die surrounded by family, or die and leave behind a legacy or resources. Whatever your belief is, it should help you continue in your warrior’s quest. Maybe muscular strength isn’t so important to you, but the power of the brain is, then that is what you must be training.
- Accept the help of others. Even the baddest warrior has need for help from time to time. They are not too proud to accept this help, even if it’s from an unlikely source. You never know how helpful or resourceful other people can be, either in body or wisdom, so don’t reject help or dismiss it, they could even save your life.
- Bide your time. That crummy job you have? You are there biding your time, waiting for your fate to come to you when the time is right. You can even be degraded to the place of a slave so long as it serves your ultimate purpose: bloody retribution.
There’s something that stirs up the blood when a man watches a good warrior film. There is a strong desire to adopt the warrior mindset. Warriors seem so good at accomplishing their goals. They don’t seem distracted, they don’t seem bothered by petty things, they don’t worry about comfort, or their looks, or how they look, or how others perceive them, no matter the sex. They always seem to have some mission and purpose, some big driver in their life. The main warrior character in The Northman had a clear story arc of revenge, but his father had a clear story arc as well, to continue being a warrior, enriching his kingdom through raids and conquest and to train his son to be his successor, and to ultimately die in battle.
Many of us are the inverse of a warrior. We aren’t buff, we aren’t deadly, we aren’t focused, we don’t a mission, a purpose, a clear end in mind, we’re easily uncomfortable or bothered by things, and we can hardly be consistent. Maybe an attempt to roleplay as a warrior is a possibility, an attempt to get into their head, to immerse yourself, and to create artificial challenges that bring out the warrior spirit in you. I remember a time when I felt this warrior spirit in myself. I was sick with a cold and felt weak and uncomfortable and then there was a major snowstorm that left my parent’s driveway loaded with a foot of snow. It was a big driveway and my father was in the city using a tractor to clear out snow for the city. No one else was able to clear the driveway of the snow, he’d have no way to get back in if it wasn’t cleared out, he’d have to park on the street, which in the country, this was a thin road that one didn’t park on. I saw the task I had at hand. It was going to be a real battle and I was going to be exhausted at the end of it, but I was also thrilled at the idea of the challenge, I wanted to fight this battle. I rose to the challenge, it took me hours to clear out the snow, I was plenty exhausted by the end of it, but I was also extremely pleased with myself and felt an intense sense of accomplishment. I think a lot of men feel this way after a very hard workout, or a long run, or a hard fought battle to win the game in sportsball.
Channel your ancient inner-warrior spirit. Keep that fire kindled, don’t allow yourself to get too carried away going the other way, becoming the jester, the weak goofling who has to hide with the women and children. A warrior abides, he endures. You can endure.